Practical Strategies for the Time and Season.
Many of my friends are concerned and dismayed by the political turn in the US this year. After some years of slow progress toward a more progressive country we seem to have taken a sharp turn. The current conservative movement would like to advance their agenda through the coming administration, an agenda which I perceive as involving a reduction in personal liberty, an increased dependency of people on their “employers” and decreased regulation and management of dangerous industrial systems. I expect all that to lead to reduced prosperity, declining health, increased oppression, and the empowerment of the police.
Of course my personal concern is the development and establishment of polytheistic religion and magic in modern culture. This makes me particularly concerned about the political connection between conservative monotheisms and the US government. I hope my readers will be with me when I skip a long historical bullet-list of reasons for the assertion that granting political authority to conservative monotheism has not, historically, led to liberty and prosperity. If right-wing Christianity gains in authority I would expect to see examples of the direct persecution and disempowerment of non-Christian institutions. Whether this would extend to the usual neopagan back-yard circles and public-park gatherings is a matter of anxiety, but not yet of record. Certainly it can’t be good news for those of us working to build lasting Pagan institutions.
Pagan and occult practitioners have a specialized body of occult skills that can be drawn upon to support us in these times. I hope that Pagan organizers and leaders will choose to boldly and publicly continue our religious work, regardless of the social climate, or the nattering of Dominionists or Christian reconstructionists. Our communities have made a good start at producing engines of blessing and growth for our society, and that work must continue. I hope, too, that we can hold to the founding principles of the USA – that no religion (or religious or spiritual principle-set) has a special place guiding our government. Our government is guided by the votes and voices of the public, and members of the public may be guided by religion or spirituality, whether Christian, Hindu, Neopagan, Humanist or whatever. Together they make the currents on which our ship of state must sail.
In context of that multiple web of influences I believe in pursuing one’s political goals actively. ‘Tis the season, my kin, to begin organizing locally. Join the Democrats if you can stand it, or get working on that new party. We need some real practical progressives running for congress in 2018.
But witches and magicians have that little extra angle. In our study of the occult forces and influences of nature and spirit, we have learned how to apply just that little bit of extra pressure, that perfect poke in that unseen pressure point, that could turn a head at the right moment or change the emotional condition of a community, or even Cripple the Whole Fucking Deathstar… er… ya know… That is, we can use magic consciously and directly.
So let me ruminate a bit on how to apply the basics of sorcery on a social and political level. I am indebted to Jason Miller for helping to remind all practitioners of how to use traditional practical magic systematically, how to make the magical link effectively, and how to plan and execute a campaign of spellcraft.
If we’re to engage an opponent it is best to be armored. I might suggest a three-layer approach.
1: Personal Talismanic Protection: If you’re an urban activist, or plan to be demonstrating and standing at the barricade, it is wise to have portable and personal magical protection, traditionally anchored in one or more amulets and talismans. There are many variation of how to prepare and consecrate such a talisman, including my own.
My own experience has relied on a single personal protective talisman, an object that is never apart from my person for more than minutes at a time. It would certainly be possible to create multiple items with more specific intentions – a Saturn protection for physical harm, a Solar charm to increase one’s charisma and boldness, etc.
2: House and Boundary Wards: For those using their home or property for Pagan worship, or who have other reason to be concerned about visits from armed agents of the government, boundary customs are useful. This can be arranged in several layers as well.
One can begin with the edges of one’s property. The obvious entrances can serve as symbolic of any approach, and so drawing a line across the driveway or walkways with Stay-away Powder or red brick dust, or other materia. Here’s something:
Draw water from the primary water-source of your home or land (for most people that will be the faucet). Take 1/3 of it and put it to heat, (usually on your cooking stove) saying:
Let the Fire be kindled,
Let there be light in the darkness
Let the Fire come into the Water,
I set this spell to boil
Take a good pinch each of vervain, hawthorn and rue, and add them to the water as it comes to a boil, saying, for each:
Into this pot I place my will
That it may be boiled in the Water & the Fire
Let this be a warding; let this be a turning; let this be as a wall against all ill.
Take a second third of the water and set it in a place where the light of the sun and waxing moon can shine on it, and leave it there for one full turning of day and night.
In the last third of the water, add a good pinch of crystalline salt, saying:
Let Earth and Water be joined
The powers of making, of gounding, of cleansing.
That which needs burning, let it be burned
That which needs turning, let it be turned
That which needs keeping, let it be well-kept.
Bring all three parts brought together but not yet mixed, under a waxing moon, perhaps in the first quarter. Make all ready, and hallow the space and the work as you know how. Mingle the three parts together, as you conjure with something like this charm:
Green leaf, salt, and moon and sun
Join these portions into one
Turn aside invaders all
Like a mighty castle wall
Stand you firm in spirit-curtain
Keep this (place) from evil, certain
Turn aside approaching ill
In the place where you are spilled.
Moonlight, sunlight, sky and land
Joined here by my will and hand
Turn aside opponents all
Water of my magic wall.
Jug the water tightly, and finish the work as is proper. Such a potion can be poured at entrances and walkways, as a first line of defense.
3: Sweetening the Police: If social authority is really going to show up at your door it will probably take one of two forms – either the uniformed police, or a band of self-authorized neighbors. The latter is difficult to enchant against in advance, unless you feel pretty sure about which of your neighbors is a jerk. If you have the latter problem, then all this can be applied to individual neighbors as well. Trying to sweeten the ‘mood’ of a community is a more difficult endeavor. (Here’s one very good account of such an experiment)
Police departments are composed of a limited number of specific individuals, and led by an even smaller number. Most of the leadership will have pictures posted on an internet ‘facebook’ (in the original sense), which allows for an easy basic object-link, perhaps along with the distinctive badge or logo of the local cadre. Consider stopping in to your local police headquarters to pick up a brochure. Pages of such stuff can be printed, folded up and either inserted in a Honey Jar (here’s a Druid-y version of the traditional hoodoo spell) vessel or placed beneath it as candles are burned on the lid.
The text of my Honey Jar spell is arranged as a love spell of the usual sort, and assumes that you want a ‘result’ in the near future. That approach could be used before a demonstration or direct action, in hopes of improving the mood and behavior of the police that become involved, and their bosses. When using the same tech for a long-term effort such as being and staying welcome in a community, for instance, the whole spell can be continued at need.
Organizing and resistance requires numbers. Especially if one doesn’t have money. We work to gather like-minded people together, to work our political will by the democratic traditions of petition, protest and direct action. There’s no reason to leave out the ghosts and daemons.
As in much spirit-work, I suggest beginning with the Ancestors and the Dead. The front end of this work can be built into public political rhetoric. Let the newly-activated hear the names and stories of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth, of John Brown. Let them know who Saul Alinsky was, and bring to mind the countless unknown leaders of the Labor movement. Protest and resistance stand as proud memories for our nation, and, as we say, that which is remembered lives. Even the tales of our colonial founders have a place in the narrative of people’s resistance.
Rhetoric can be empowered by direct spiritual work with those beings. My friends at the Niagra Voodoo Shrine have been working to good effect to establish Harriet “Mama Moses” Tubman as an ally, and plenty of experimental conjure could be done to find a cadre of spirits willing to act with one’s local organizing. If we must stand, let us stand with heroes at our back. If we must march, let spirits march with us.
And not just the Dead. If one is working on and with a specific piece of land then work with the Genius Locus of that place seems mandatory. This applies whether the land is one’s home, or a specific target patch in environmental or housing/development work. The web of symbols, laws and prayers that every government uses produce a de facto level of magical “claiming” in many such cases. It is valuable to stake one’s own claim and introduce oneself to ‘the Locals’ through simple rites such as those at this link. With such an introduction accomplished the magician can conjure specific ally spirits for defense and for support in direct action.
In my opinion the details of religion are best kept separate from the work of organizing. I don’t appreciate it when a Christian ally tries to open a prayer-session, and I don’t think we should try to get our fellow organizers to join us in offerings to the gods. That said, there are several deities in the well-known pantheons that seem proper for the work of resistance and restoration.
Shiva comes to mind first. He is the Lord of Yoga (yoga is best translated as ‘magic’). He is commonly called the god of ‘destruction’, because he will, when time is right, open his big Third Eye and burn away the manifest cosmos to make room for the next one. On the personal level he is thus understood as the lord of enlightenment, who burns away the veil of illusion to reveal spiritual truth. In turn that seems to make him the very patron of the work that needs doing now – the burning away of the rickety structure of late fossil-fuel civilization and post-Christian society, to make room for the New World.
Shiva’s counterpart in Euro myth is Dionysos, the mysterious son of Zeus who becomes the god of wine, sexual pleasure, social inversion and mystery-religion enlightenment. Dionysian practice was stifled in the West by the rise of Christianity, while Shiva’s cult and philosophy continued into modern times. We don’t have as much Lore about Dionysos, but he’s much more directly connected than Shiva to our usual cultural heritage.
As a bit of practical fun, both Shiva and Dionysos are depicted as the leaders of huge marches of ghosts, witches, daemons, etc. I love the idea of inviting them to attend a march, bringing their retinue. Look out folks, here comes not only a few thousand angry citizens, but a countless parade of spirits!
In working for specific goals it is often a specific public official that stands between the organizer and the outcome. The work of enchantment and persuasion-at a distance is central to a lot of practical magic, and it can be applied here as well. As always, this does not amount to cursing or hexing. Attempts to persuade one another are standard parts of human interaction – adding the occult component is as ethical as dressing well for an interview.
The single most important factor in such work is the establishment of the magical link between the magician and the target. While public servants are likely to have pictures easily available, such links are rather third-tier. Consider corresponding with the elected or law-enforcement official in an effort to get a specimen of their signature. (even a digital version is probably better than a public photo) Once you have such a link you can use sweetening spells if your mood is still good, or consider something a little more hot and rough if the urgency is greater.
Devising the message of such influence work is important. This provides an opportunity to narrow and clarify your targeting. Magical work intended to “save the Earth” amounts, usually, to nothing. Choose a legislator or officer, decide what you need them to do in order to gain a specific benefit, and express that in a simple, concise statement (preferably a single sentence or declaration). Incidentally that can be a valuable public prop as well – consider using it in press releases, protest-signs, etc – especially if you were to sigilize it.
Correspondence is also an opportunity to get your own spellwork into the hands, or at least the offices, of your target. Make a nice letterhead with your sigils embedded in the art. Send your spell-intentions along by treating the edges of the letter or envelope in some nice bend-over oil or the like. Consider stopping in to their offices to deliver a little of the same to the doorknobs and walkways. (I suggest avoiding white powders, these days ;) )
Allies can also be brought into play. Consider building a “whispering campaign” of spirits around the target to keep pressure on toward your goal. Have you made alliance with former Mayors of your town, Governors, etc? Is there a related category of the Dead (veterans, grandmothers, etc) that can be set to it? What spirits can be set to ‘haunt’ the situation?
Most of this advice is rather long-term, based on the drip-and-wear principle. Moments of urgency may require a more direct spell, or a specific conjuring of a spirit to do the work of persuasion. When that happens any preliminary work to establish the magical link can only be helpful.
Behind all of this detail, I think that we must face the coming years with our hearts turned toward those ancient spirits called Liberty, Wisdom, and Justice. I totally support the use of the Lady Liberty figure as a focus, and keep her torch and shining crown in my heart even as I seek a foxier cleverness to support more specific goals.